Saturday, October 5, 2013

Turtles, Regattas, and Spicemas...Oh, My!

Grenada and Carriacou
July 21 - August 18, 2013

Author's note, October 5th: Once again, I've managed to let two-plus months go by without writing a new blog chapter. We've been having too much fun in Grenada and Carriacou, combined with no internet on the boat. What's that spell?? A seriously lacking blog site! Anyway, here's part I of our goings-on over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

If we ever thought that life on a boat could get boring, the past few weeks have certainly cured us of that notion! We've been to full moon dinghy drifts, pig roasts, cruiser happy hours, charity auctions, steel pan band concerts, marathon shopping buses that hit a dozen stops in 3-4 hours, island tours, turtle sightings, butt-kicking hashes, dominoes marathons, two-for-one pizza nights, trivia nights, bingo nights (okay, we skipped that one), the Carriacou Regatta, and...drum-roll please...Grenada's very own Carnival. Tired yet??

We arrived in Prickly Bay on Grenada's southern coast in late-July. Prickly is one of four main anchorages on the south side, and is perfect if you want to be close to the action. Prickly Bay Marina, De Big Fish bar/restaurant, Budget Marine, and local buses to the shopping mall and downtown all surround the bay, and the marina's tiki bar has something happening just about every night of the week. (Their big night is Wednesday bingo, where you can win anything from a truck full of Carib beer to a live cow.) We joined other cruisers, locals, and college kids at Prickly Bay Marina's trivia night in hopes of winning a ride in the motorized doughnut (pizza and beer included), but those pesky med students were just too smart for us.

Our first adventure came to us thanks to Harry and Melinda on Sea Schell, who arranged a trip to the turtle sanctuary on the north end of the island. We'd been warned that mating season was nearly over, and that we'd be lucky to see either a mama leatherback laying her eggs or hatchlings emerging from their nest. Who would've thought we'd be fortunate enough to see both! What an experience: as soon as we arrived on the beach (sometime after 8pm), one of the guides took us to a spot where another volunteer was holding a dozen hatchlings in a bucket. The baby turtles had hatched earlier that morning, and the conservationists kept them protected until after dark so that they'd have a better chance against predators as they made their way to the surf.
After spending a few moments watching the hatchlings waddle to the water's edge, we were told that a mama leatherback (all 400 lbs of her) was laying eggs farther down the beach. We spend over an hour watching her lay her eggs, cover up the nest with snow-angel-like movements, and finally...albeit VERY slowly...make her way back into the ocean. It was an amazing experience, and we're only sorry we didn't get better photos. (We were limited to red-light illumination so as not to disturbe the turtles.) Still, it's something we'll never forget.

After spending a week in Prickly Bay, we were rushing back north to the island of Carriacou. It was regatta time! We anchored back in Tyrell Bay, arriving in time for some of the pre-regatta festivities. First was a huge cruiser BBQ on the beach, followed by an auction benefitting the Carriacou Children's Education Fund. The CCEF has been raising money for local kids for 13 years, and the annual regatta auction was the main event. Thanks to cruisers and local businesses who donated items and services, the cumulative total reached over 200,000 ECs. Way to go!

Once the regatta got underway, we had a chance to see some of the racing in our own backyard. The "cruiser version" of the regatta included an around-the-island race from Tyrell, along with a Tyrell-to-Hillsborough jaunt. The local sloop races were held in Hillsborough, which meant a bus ride into town. Talk about a party! The beach was filled from end to end with sailboats waiting to be launched.
Kids came from all over the Windward islands to race their Optimists and Lasers, while the grown-ups filled the gorgeous local sloops. Dave and Lisa on Ke 'Ola Kai introduced us to their friend, Sherwin (owner of our favorite rum shack, the "Lambi Queen"), who invited all of us to join him to follow the racers on his speedboat. We had a fantastic time, and ended the afternoon at Sandy Island with a swim and an invitation to a local cookout.

As if the regatta weren't enough fun, we were soon on our way back to St. George's for Grenada's Carnival the following weekend. Various events had been held for the previous two weeks to name the queen of carnival, the top calypso band, the top soca band, etc., but the real fun was held on the second Monday and Tuesday of August. Before that, however, we had a birthday to celebrate! Lisa's b-day fell between the Carriacou regatta and Carnival, so we, Island Dream, and JoHo joined Ke 'Ola Kai for a few days in Grand Mal.
We snorkeled the underwater park, had a birthday brunch and dinner, and even enjoyed a beach day. We were thrilled to get to celebrate with Lisa and friends, and hope she had a terrific birthday!

Monday morning's Carnival celebration started with "J'ouvert" or "Jab-Jab", which we knew meant a 4am wake-up call and the oldest clothes we could find. Jab-Jab, sometimes known as the "Devil's Mas", was an opportunity for people to dress up in scary costumes, covering themselves in motor oil and sporting fake...ummm...severed appendages. Let's just say there were a few sausages sticking out of various orifices that looked pretty realistic! As for the oil, the key was to get as many people covered as possible. Fortunately, the smelly stuff was replaced by paints of every color for the parade, and one float even painted people with chocolate syrup. Remember those old clothes we were wearing? If you're going to be part of the celebration, you REALLY have to be part of it...that means getting dirty!

J'ouvert was followed by a Monday afternoon parade, a Monday night illuminated parade, and yet another (final) parade on Tuesday. One costume began blurring into another (along with a few hundred photos), and we were ready to call it a day.

Next up, it's back to Grenada's south coast and all those island tours, hashes, and dinghy drifts we mentioned earlier...but that's for another blog post. Til then...

P.S. A HUGE thank-you to Jolanda, Darnell, and Lisa for sharing their photos!

Enjoy more pictures of the Carriacou Regatta here.

Enjoy more pictures of the Grenada Carnival here.

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